A compilation of 7 loosely related shorts in the Halo universe by 8 different directors and 6 studios. Like other US and Japan collaborations, such as the Animatrix, Halo Legends aims to tell the definitive back story of Halo universe (overseen by 343 Industries Frank O’Connor) as well as depicting different aspects of the covenant and human conflict.
The breakdown of director and animation studio is:
Origins (2 parts) directed by Hideki Futamura and animation production by Studio 4C.
The Duel directed by Hiroshi Yamazaki and animation production by Production I.G.
Homecoming directed by Koji Sawai and animation production by Bee Train.
Prototype directed by Yasushi Muraki and Tomoki Kyoda and animation production by Bones.
Odd One Out directed by Daisuke Nishio and animation production by Toei Animation.
The Babysitter directed by Toshiyuki Kanno and animation production by Studio 4C.
The Package directed by Shinji Aramaki and animation production by Casio Entertainment.
There is a wide range of different animation styles which on the most part are reflective of the studio that produced the short. For example the one done by Toei is in in that simple bright animation style that is reminiscent of Dragon Ball while Studio 4C in “The Babysitter” use their highly detailed realistic style (or in Origins their abstract style). Some of the shorts have a Japanese take on Halo such as in “The Duel” where the Covenant are basically depicted as Samurai but on the most part it sticks to the familiar Halo we know from the games. There is also quite a lot of focus on female spartans while Master Chief only prominently stars in the last short “The Package”.
Out of the 7 my favourite is “The Babysitter” produced by Studio 4C which involves an assasination of a covenant prophet by a Spartan and a small ODST group. This short was around 20 minutes and was paced very well with a complete self contained story. As mentioned before the animation in this is very detailed, especially the architecture of the ruins and looks to be the one with the highest budget.
Out of the directors there are 2 high profile director in Daisuke Nishio and Shinji Aramaki. Daisuke Nishio directed the Dragon Ball series and his short is the only light hearted one and involves a clumsy spartan named 1337. Shinji Aramaki, director of Appleseed, does the only 3D animated short with a studio that hasn’t done anything else of note in anime. Both of these are alright but typical of their style and the anime cliche they popularised.
Overall not much here unless you are a story obsessed Halo fan, there are some decent action scenes but nothing comes close to the CG in the Halo games or amazing commercials for the game. As a Japanese animation fan it is interesting to see how each studio adapted their animation styles but I would say only Studio 4C (in “The Babysitter” not “Origins”) does a good enough of a job that is must see.
Basic plot summary – The Chinese Ming emperor has sent a convoy to Japan to recover a child (Kotaro) who is essential to a sacrificial ritual. A samurai with no name (Nanashi) takes it upon himself to protect Kotaro and escort him to his destination.
This is a well done movie that sticks to the genre which is typically full of blood and violence. The battles and encounters are mostly one-sided till the end but it is always a thrill to see people fight each other in interesting ways. The plot is another classic tale of one party being hunted with a satisfying conclusion.
The characters elevate this movie above standard action fare. The kid is a Chinese orphan from a high-class family who has fled to Japan and taken care of by Japanese priests. After being pursued Kotaro had to become self-sufficient and his dog Tobimaru has helped him cope with this. The dog is especially a great companion as he is capable of fighting to protect Kotaro. There are other characters such as the western Samurai part of Chinese convoy who serves as the main adversary for Nanashi. His motivation is purely to find a worthy opponent and doesn’t really have any connection with his Chinese employers.
Why watch it? Great Samurai action and Drama
Rating – A
Length – 102 Minutes Year – 2007
Sword of the Stranger was directed by Masahiro Ando in his first overall directorial role. He has recently directed the 2009 high budget action TV show Canaan.
Darker Than Black returns for a second season directed again by creator Tensai Okamura. What’s Different? It’s 12 instead of 26 episodes, Yoko Kanno does not return to do the music and Hei A.K.A the Black Reaper is no longer the main character (he’s has more of a supporting role). Instead the focus of this sci-fi mystery is a a young half russian and japanese girl. Season 2 is very much a side story that provides some continuity of events in the original season.
Despite the change in main character season 2 of DTB starts off very much the same as season 1 with similar conflicts between different contractors and spy agencies. A new Earth threatening disaster arises involving the gates and contractors with various agencies trying to prevent it from happening. The crazy variety of contractor powers are again present and remain as interesting. For example there is a contractor that performs deadly magic tricks and another that is able to absorb surrounding material to form armour and wreck havoc like the hulk.
Compared to the first season it is simply is just not as good. Animation is on par in quality but I think the general plot and characters are less interesting. After watching this I don’t feel as excited about watching further DTB properties. If judged on it’s own merits it still is a decent above average SF anime than stands out among other shows released in 2009.
Rating – B –
Genre – Mystery, Science Fiction, Action Length – 12 Episode series Year – 2009
Darker Than Black Gemini of the Meteor – Episode 11 – The Water Bottom is Dry, The Moon is Full
Episode starts with Suou helping Hei make pelmeni, a russian dish which is a type of round dumpling with a thin dough shell surrounding meat. After this everything is set into motion, Hei goes off to find Yin, Suou goes to meet Shion and section 3 are given the order to kill Izanagi/Shion.
Suou, before seeing Shion, runs into her father who reveals that his dead body that Suou saw was a doll copy set up to protect him. The whole situation surrounding Suou is explained by Dr Pavlichenko that she indeed had died once and brought back with Shion’s power. Suou died when she was 5 but was not brought back until a few years later when Shion made a copy of himself that was flawed. Shion cannot make perfect copies, each time there is one thing different and in this case the difference was gender. This is why they are very similar and both are able to summon a rifle. Memories of Suou up until she was 5 where implanted into this copy along with false memories.
As section 3 locate Suou so do the Americans who are after Izanami and Izanagi as energy source. After a showdown with Shizume they escape but end up leaving Dr Pavlichenko behind who has died from being wounded by a lance throwing contractor.
Darker Than Black Gemini of the Meteor – Episode 10 -Your Smile On The Street Corner of Lies
Reveals galore in this episode, quite a few mysterious plot points are finally cleared up.
Suou’s mother (Makimiya Asano) reveals to Kirihara that she saw Suou die in an explosion. So she was understandably shocked to see her daughter return who she had her cremated years ago. She then rationalises that the current Suou must be a copy or clone. The ability to make copies of people is Shion’s contractor ability. However Suou is an incomplete copy and as a result is able to feel some human emotion.
Also revealed is the way Mao lost his human form. His body was destroyed in the same explosion that killed Suou while he possessed a body of a cat.
Episode ends with Hei returning to the group after a standoff with Kirihara, an orange crescent moon in the sky and Yin shown glowing in a field of flowers.
Darker Than Black Gemini of the Meteor – Episode 9 – A Sudden Meeting One Day
Detective duo from first season return to help Suou find her mom. More as comic relief rather than actually doing anything meaningful. Hei also finally sheds his homeless look.
I clearly wasn’t paying much attention about some of the finer elements of the story as a few things were cleared up in this episode. First of all Izanagi is supposed to be Shion, and Izanami is Yin, I wasn’t paying enough attention to realise Izanagi and Inazami are entirely different. The reason as to why there is so much attention to these two are described in the Mitaka Documents as followed “Izanagi gazes upon the false sea bottom, waiting for Izanami. Izanami will cross the sea bottom, and eventually, the two will meet. When they do, heaven and earth will split into two, and the Gate of Hell will open it’s way there. From the Gate will come forth one, a being unknown. And strife will continue for eternity.“
Comment – One thing that has become clear about the show is that it isn’t really a top tier show. It seems better than it really is due to the lack of quality this season. It just doesn’t have the complete package, great action but average story. It is still worth watching, especially as it’s core is enjoyable action sci-fi.
Darker Than Black Gemini of the Meteor – Episode 8 – On Summer Days, The Sun Sways
While on the train to Tokyo the Russians with Tanya capture Suou. Hei is offered a job to work with the Russians who threaten to blow up the train. The fight begins once Tanya stops the train. Suou believes she has killed Tanya with her rifle however Shion was the one shooting from distance.
Mitaka Documents are mentioned again and are referred to as Memory of the Future. And Inazami’s power is described as being able to “send contractors to heaven“.
I feel that the mystery in this season surrounding Inazami and the Mitaka documents are not as interesting as the events in the first season. Although I’m still liking the action set pieces despite Hei not being able to use his contractor powers. I find that I’m only watching this show for the animation, action, and occasional moments of character development.
Darker Than Black Gemini of the Meteor – Episode 7 – The Doll Sings to the Dancing Snow
As they make their way to Tokyo another contractor is sent by the Russians to capture them. This episode explores Dolls, whether they feel pain and emotions, and contractor’s attachment to them.
Dr Pavilechenko, Suou’s father, does not seem to be dead. He is spotted by the Russians in Tokyo which might mean he is a doll or has made clones of himself. Also referred to as Izanagi’s father.
Hei hires a smuggler to get them past the blockades looking for them. Successful to the point when the smuggler take off with July. The smuggler intend to sell July as dolls are valuable commodities.
Suou, becoming attached to July, follows the trail of July’s observation ghost. However she is led to another contractor, Ilia Sokoloff. This contractor’s power is a gaze that puts you to sleep and kills you peacefully. Hei manages to kill him while on top the contractor’s car with his wire.